The Online Darkroom Store

Saturday, October 22

New content added

Reader, Gregory, in a comment to my earlier post, First Prints, said he is looking forward to more print scans appearing as he takes some early steps into a community darkroom. When I started writing this blog, I imagined that I'd be preaching to the converted and would attract some people who were already doing darkroom printing. Gregory's words got me thinking that there may well be other readers who fancy having a bash at silver gelatin printing but aren't sure how to get started.

I can readily identify with that position as I remember it well myself. I started off with a pal in a YMCA darkroom and built up my skills over a 20 year period. We didn't have the internet then - obviously Al Gore hadn't got round to inventing it - so I had to pick everything up from library books. Over the past couple of days, I've tried to cast my mind back to that time, to the problems I faced, the confusing foibles of the craft and the places I (regularly) came unstuck. I've written three articles (below the header at the top of the page) which I hope will be of help to people just starting out.

This isn't the most sophisticated information but I believe it to be intensely practical and that's what you need when you're setting out. I'll maybe get round to writing about the zone system and how it can be applied to roll film at a later date.

It would be great if people could take a look at "Getting a good negative", "How to develop film" and "How to make a print" and let me know if I've included any glaring errors or made some outstanding omissions. It would also be great if you could alert me to these in a private email rather than by exposing my ignorance in a comment tagged on the end of this post. The last bit's a joke - I'd be really happy if you wanted to comment here!

If there's anything else I can turn my attention to, please let me know and I'll see what I can do. The way I see it, the more people who are encouraged to go into the darkroom - their own or a community facility - the better. More printing means more film, paper and chemical sales and that's what will keep the traditional - and real - side of photography spinning well into the future.


Paul Glover said...

I'm at that stage where I'm really thinking about what I might need to start wet printing, so looks like I found your site at just the right time!

I've been shooting almost exclusively film now for about 2 years, and mostly black and white for maybe 6 months now. Scanning the negatives is all well and good, but I know I'm not getting the full benefit of film's potential this way and I see little point spending vast amounts on a really good scanner and printer when a fraction of that cost would set up a darkroom. Plus I spend plenty of time sitting at a computer already, and the idea of removing the computer from the process entirely is appealing.

Of course, first, I need to see if I can temporarily black out the office room in our apartment for use as a darkroom, or see if the local community college might rent darkroom time.


Hi Paul,

If you like the way your film shots look once scanned then you'll like them even more when you print from them in the darkroom. Scanning accentuates the grain in many cases and loses a bit of sharpness which you've then got to recover in Photoshop. Darkroom printing through a top notch lens retains all the qualities of the negative. Plus, I don't think anything compares to the look of a glossy, unglazed, fibre-based wet print.

I know what you mean about computer fatigue, too. Everything in digital photography seems to centre around the computer, which is really just one skill. Film photography is more demanding in terms of the various skills required but also much more satisfying as a result. BTW, a good, cheap tip for blacking out a window is to tape tin (cooking) foil over it.

Paul Glover said...

Thanks for the tinfoil tip! Good for more than just hat-making. ;-)

I've noticed the grain accentuation with scanning and can see the difference clearly vs viewing the negative with a 10x loupe. The scans never achieve the same sharpness as the negative unless I sharpen the snot out of them (and then they end up looking like every other over-sharpened digital image out there...ugh).


Totally agree with you about sharpening scans, Paul. I'd rather leave them a bit soft as any sharpening does tend to make them look like digital files.